afrol News, 20 June - The trial of Briton Simon Mann, who admitted in court he was part of an alleged 2004 plot to overthrow the dictator of Equatorial Guinea, was expected to conclude today in Malabo. However, a ruling is now expected early next week.
The former SAS officer turned mercenary, who the prosecution wants sentenced to a minimum of 32 years, testified for two days - 18 and 19 June - in the heavily guarded conference centre of the Equatoguinean capital.
The 55-year-old Black Beach prisoner told the court he was a junior member of the project and implicated Mark Thatcher, son of British ex-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, as part of the "management team" and Lebanese millionaire Eli Calil as "the boss" of the botched coup.
Mr Mann also said the Spanish and South African governments gave the "green light" and pleaded for leniency. The Briton directly implicated the former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar, saying the leader of Equatorial Guinea's former colonial power was informed of the coup plans.
South Africa's Department of Foreign Affairs in a statement today said the allegation presented by Mr Mann was "as preposterous at it is laughable," denying any prior knowledge of the coup plans. Also a Spanish Foreign Ministry official has denied any involvement, while ex-PM Aznar's party, now in the opposition, in a statement said: "It is the word of Mr Mann against that of a head of government. The declarations of a mercenary have little value."
Mr Mann during the trial made a full confession of his part in the alleged coup plan - a plot still being denied having ever taken place by several opposition sources. In a statement to the Malabo court, Mr Mann said: "I am very, very sorry for what I have done. I am also very happy that we failed ... I think that the people that were seriously involved in this and have not faced justice, they should do so."
Human rights groups have however great doubt regarding the value of "confessions" made in the case, saying they were probably made following torture. All accused have been held detained in the feared Black Beach prison, known for systematic use of heavy torture.
Also, early statements from the Malabo government showed authorities had reached conclusions on that coup plans were made and who stood behind. The announcement was followed by purges against the opposition and the later trials have seen "confessions" exactly in line with the government's conclusions. Also, the Equatoguinean judiciary is known to be controlled by government.
Amnesty International therefore today again warned against the ongoing proceedings against "coup plotters" in Equatorial Guinea. The group's investigator Muluka-Anne Miti today warned that the next upcoming trials, against six Equatoguinean citizens, would not be fair as the accused had only been given the chance to see their lawyer once, for a brief moment.
Equatorial Guinea however hopes to run further high-profiled cases against alleged coup plotters. Attorney General Jose Olo Obono today stressed that Equatorial Guinea will be seeking the extradition of Mark Thatcher – who was arrested but struck a plea bargain deal with the South African authorities – and businessman Eli Calil.
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